Integrating Climate Change Risks into Resilient Island Planning in the Maldives


The small, low-lying atoll islands of Maldives are highly vulnerable to flooding and coastal erosion. More than 44% of settlements, including 42% of the population, and more than 70% of all critical infrastructure are located within 100 meters of shoreline. Intensive rainfall, storm surges and swell waves are expected to be aggravated through sea level rise and climate change effects on weather patterns. This will compound underlying trends of increasing coastal erosion and pressure on scarce land resources, and increase physical vulnerability of island populations, infrastructure and livelihood assets. 

In response, this UNDP-GEF project enabled the Government of Maldives to systematically assess the costs and benefits of different adaptation options in the fields of land use planning and coastal protection, and to develop the necessary institutional and individual capacity at national, provincial, atoll and island levels to enable decentralized and well-informed decision-making. 

This project closed in 2015.

Project details

The Republic of Maldives is an archipelago of 26 natural atolls and some 1,190 small, low-lying, coral islands distributed along an 860 km long chain, running north to south, in the Indian Ocean. The Maldivian atolls are the seventh largest reef system in the world and the largest in the Indian Ocean, with a total reef area of over 21,000 square km. Administratively, the country is divided into 7 provinces, 20 atolls, 194 'inhabited' islands and the capital Malé. The total population in 2008 was estimated at 309,575. Over a third of the population lives in Malé.

The major climate hazards to which the Maldives is exposed regularly include windstorms, heavy rainfall, drought, sea swells, storm surges and udha. Of these, the most serious are considered to be swell waves, heavy rainfall and windstorms, because of their high frequency and great potential for causing damage through flooding, erosion and other impacts. The combined effect of storm surges and tides, or storm tides, can be especially destructive. However, there is considerable variation in hazard patterns across the archipelago and even between islands in the same atoll, due to local variation in geophysical and climatic factors. For example, the northern atolls face a greater risk of cyclonic winds and storm surges than the southern atolls, where the risk is much lower because of proximity to the equator.

The Maldives is inherently vulnerable to climate and other natural hazards due to its geographic and geophysical characteristics including the small size, low elevation, narrow width and unconsolidated nature of its coral islands. Historically, the islands have exhibited considerable natural resilience to fluctuating sea levels, varying climatic conditions, wave action, extreme weather events and other major hazard events. The coral reefs, in particular, play an important role in protecting the islands from the impacts of extreme weather events, along with coastal sand ridges, natural vegetation and other natural features. The economic and biological values of the reefs have long been recognized. Additionally, the natural protective functions of the reefs as the country's first line of defense against a range of natural hazards including climate risks, became more widely understood during the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the impacts of which would have been far greater without the buffering role of the reefs and other natural features.

The Government of Maldives fully recognizes that in order to effectively manage climate change risks, it is necessary to integrate climate risk planning and climate change adaptation into the country’s development policy and planning frameworks across all sectors and levels of government (i.e. from the national to the island level). Integrating climate risk considerations into island land use planning, coastal protection and coastal development is especially critical given the high degree of physical exposure of island populations and economic assets to climate-change induced wind and wave damage and short and long term flooding. Addressing these issues is identified as an urgent and immediate priority in the country's NAPA.

Source: UNDP Maldives Project Document (2009)

Thematic areas: 
Climate-related hazards addressed: 
Level of intervention: 
Primary beneficiaries: 
Local communities in the Maldives.
Implementing agencies and partnering organizations: 
Maldives Ministry of Housing,Transport & Environment
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
Global Environment Facility (GEF)
Project status: 
Financing amount: 
4,490,000 (As of May 5, 2012)
Co-financing total: 
4,850,000 (As of May 5, 2012)

Key results and outputs

  • Outcome 1: Enhanced capacity of national, provincial, atoll and island authorities and civil society leaders to integrate climate risk information into policy, planning and investment decisions
    • Output 1.1: Regional climate change scenarios for the Maldives analyzed and updated to provide more accurate climate change projections for national and local planning 
    • Output 1.2: Provincial/atoll and island authorities and civil society leaders for at least 4 islands understand climate change related risks and are able to prioritize appropriate land use planning and coastal protection measures
    • Output 1.3: Technical specialists in government departments responsible for land use planning, coastal zone management, coastal infrastructure development and land reclamation trained in the application of the guidelines developed under Outputs 2.1 and 2.2
    • Output 1.4: A climate risk information system established that enables universal access to meteorological and oceanographic data for adaptation planning purposes
  • Outcome 2: Integration of climate risk planning into key national policies that govern or impact land use planning, coastal protection and development
    • Output 2.1: Guidelines developed for climate risk resilient land use planning in the Maldives
    • Output 2.2: Guidelines developed for climate risk resilient coastal protection in the Maldives
    • Output 2.3: A national research strategy to address information gaps on climate change impacts in the Maldives
    • Output 2.4: Recommendations developed on how to integrate climate risk management into land use planning, coastal zone management, decentralization, privatization and disaster risk reduction policies
  • Outcome 3: Locally prioritized, appropriate adaptation options that reduce exposure to climate change risks demonstrated
    • Output 3.1: Climate change resilient land use plans designed and specific measures demonstrated on at least four islands
    • Output 3.2: “Soft” measures for coastal protection that incorporate future climate risks demonstrated in at least three islands
    • Output 3.3: Replication strategy for demonstrated adaptation measures developed
  • Outcome 4: Project knowledge and lessons learned compiled, analyzed and disseminated locally, nationally and internationally
    • Output 4.1: Information generated by the project publically available through a web-based portal
    • Output 4.2: Increased understanding of climate change risks and community-based adaptation options among island communities in 4 provinces/atolls
    • Output 4.3: Adaptation knowledge and lessons learned shared through the SIDS/AOSIS network, the ALM platform and other networks and platforms

Source: UNDP Maldives Project Document (2009)

Monitoring and evaluation

Project Start:

  • Project Inception Workshop: will be held within the first 2 months of project start with those with assigned roles in the project organization structure, UNDP country office and where appropriate/feasible regional technical policy and programme advisors as well as other stakeholders.  The Inception Workshop is crucial to building ownership for the project results and to plan the first year annual work plan. 


  • Day to day monitoring of implementation progress: will be the responsibility of the Project Manager, based on the project's Annual Work Plan and its indicators, with overall guidance from the Project Director. The Project Team will inform the UNDP-CO of any delays or difficulties faced during implementation so that the appropriate support or corrective measures can be adopted in a timely and remedial fashion.


  • Project Progress Reports (PPR): quarterly reports will be assembled based on the information recorded and monitored in the UNDP Enhanced Results Based Management Platform. Risk analysis will be logged and regularly updated in ATLAS.


  • Annual Project Review/Project Implementation Reports (APR/PIR): This key report is prepared to monitor progress made since project start and in particular for the previous reporting period (30 June to 1 July).  The APR/PIR combines both UNDP and GEF reporting requirements.  

Periodic Monitoring through Site Visits:

  • UNDP CO and the UNDP RCU will conduct visits to project sites based on the agreed schedule in the project's Inception Report/Annual Work Plan to assess first hand project progress.  Other members of the Project Board may also join these visits.  A Field Visit Report/BTOR will be prepared by the CO and UNDP RCU and will be circulated no less than one month after the visit to the project team and Project Board members.

Mid-Term of Project Cycle:

  • Mid-Term Evaluation: will determine progress being made toward the achievement of outcomes and will identify course correction if needed.  It will focus on the effectiveness, efficiency and timeliness of project implementation; will highlight issues requiring decisions and actions; and will present initial lessons learned about project design, implementation and management.  Findings of this review will be incorporated as recommendations for enhanced implementation during the final half of the project’s term.  

End of Project:

  • Final Evaluation: will take place three months prior to the final Project Board meeting and will be undertaken in accordance with UNDP and GEF guidance.  The final evaluation will focus on the delivery of the project’s results as initially planned (and as corrected after the mid-term evaluation, if any such correction took place).  The final evaluation will look at impact and sustainability of results, including the contribution to capacity development and the achievement of global environmental benefits/goals.  The Terminal Evaluation should also provide recommendations for follow-up activities.
  • Project Terminal Report: This comprehensive report will summarize the results achieved (objectives, outcomes, outputs), lessons learned, problems met and areas where results may not have been achieved.  It will also lie out recommendations for any further steps that may need to be taken to ensure sustainability and replicability of the project’s results.

Learning and Knowledge Sharing:

  • Results from the project will be disseminated within and beyond the project intervention zone through existing information sharing networks and forums.
  • The project will identify and participate, as relevant and appropriate, in scientific, policy-based and/or any other networks, which may be of benefit to project implementation though lessons learned. The project will identify, analyze, and share lessons learned that might be beneficial in the design and implementation of similar future projects.
  • Finally, there will be a two-way flow of information between this project and other projects of a similar focus. 

Source: UNDP Maldives Project Document (2009)



Mohamed Inaz
Country Officer
Najfa Shaheem Razi
Project Coordinator
Keti Chachibaia
Regional Technical Advisor